The old maxim “If at first you don’t succeed - try, try again” might be appropriate in many instances. However it doesn't ring true when it comes to auctions, and rug auctions in particular.
There is really only a tiny audience of buyers for antique collector rugs in the over $5,000 price range and, as RK.com has frequently intimated, most of these folks are, in reality, unprepared for or ill-equipped to understand what they are doing in these salesrooms. Sure it’s easy to raise a paddle at sotheby, Christie or rippon and by outbidding someone else feel confident in your decision. After all there was an under bidder, right? And at the least, so this logic goes, that person was willing to pay one bid less for it, right?
No, not really boys and girls, this is totally false logic in action. Why? Well because in most instances that same under bidder was motivated by the same false logic as the ‘successful’ bidder - blind leading the blind.
RK.com has seen umpteen instances where the under bidder is given the opportunity to purchase the piece, either right after the sale or sometime later, and an “I’ll pass” or something similar is almost always the response.
Sorry for the brief digression into the mechanics of rug buying at auction but since that seems to be the only place rugs are selling - most dealers report slow or non-existent sales lately - it is timely.
Ok then let’s examine the foolishness of offering of Lot 55 in light of the maxim – try try again – mentioned above.
First off let me state this example is one of the champions of this group and while it doesn’t hold a candle to the Brunk rug, which has been discussed in detail here on RK.com (new or forgetful readers are advised to refer to the 10 posts dealing with it and what Rk.com likes to call the ‘Karapinar Question’ in the “Turkish Rugs” Topic Area.), it is one of the best of the rest.
However, the several recent appearances at auction this rug has made, as well as the difficult fragmentary condition and unrealistic estimate it carries, preclude its selling this time around. RK.com wonders why the owner hasn’t realized this, after all it should be obvious to even a rug neophyte let alone someone with that much experience.
Wishful thinking doesn’t often pay off in the rug world and RK.com is sure this time out lot 55 will belly flop again, regardless of sotheby’s longwinded catalog caption that, by the way, conspicuously fails to mention this rug’s several other offerings, both public and private, since it was bought by the Wher Collection’s owner Marino D in 1996.
In all probabilities senor D was perfectly happy with it until the Brunk rug appeared and forced him to realize his was inferior not only the Rijksmuseum’s but also to one now owned by the Italian dealer in neighboring Milano who took it home from North Carolina.
Guess little lord franses, senor D’s ‘advisor’ in all thing ruggy, couldn’t gloss it over with him and the shuttling of this lot from auction to auction, as well as other venues, the result.
Speaking of little lord franses, one has to applaud his abilities to sell Classical rugs of varying merits to his tiny coterie of hungry billionaire buyers. But too bad for him and them franses has been equally horribly unsuccessful in helping his clients unload their gear when they tire of it for one reason or another, as senor D’s experience with lot 55 has shown in this instance.
Then again, franses was the architect of the miserably flawed attempts to sell the pinner collection privately before it appeared on Friedrichstrasse and, we imagine, again in pushing for the auction afterwards. After all at least then he had the excuse of blaming the “market” or even the auctioneers for the, as was predicted here on RK.com, disappointing results.
We guess readers now understand our belief why lot 55 won’t make the $70-90,000 estimate, right?
Lot 59 is another familiar face and while the estimate is far more user friendly, $15-20,000, it too stands a chance, albeit a lesser one, of remaining unsold.
Large pre-1800 carpets like this medallion Ushak sotheby incorrectly dates to the 17th century – we’d prefer circa mid-17th based on the borders - are rarely are purchased by collectors these days. Rather, they often end up being bought by nouveau riche clients, or their decorators, who are furnishing large luxury apartments, homes and estates.
The "Are they still around" question plus the fact this rug came from the Doris Blau collection, and was then offered in the auction she engineered of her ‘stock’ in 2002, doesn’t bode well for it selling this time around. However with the present lower estimate and expectations it now carries plus the dollar decline it probably will just make the low end.
We like the rug, as we do lot 55, academically, however, both have, in our opinion, serious commercial issues to prevent very successful negotiations on 12.16.
Lots 60 and 61 have been pictured side by side to demonstrate several points, the most important their divergent quality and connection to roots of Eastern Turkestan’s weaving culture. While these differences appear obvious to us it is equally clear they aren’t to sotheby’s experts.
Lot 60’s rote rendition of the pomegranate flower and vase design bears little resemblance to the spirited and lively rendition lot 61offers up of another equally typical East Turkestan pattern - three medallions and corner-pieces.
The fact lot 60 is in better condition really has little bearing on the sales ability of this type of rug because the market for them appears to ‘value’ age, beauty and history rather than just condition. We do agree with sotheby’s opinion lot 61 is the earlier, 18th century in our estimation, but not their price estimates. Lot 60 is overvalued at $15-20,000 – we believe it won’t sell – while lot 61, in comparison, undervalued at $10-15,000. The somewhat diminished coloration lot 61 exhibits probably the rational for the lower estimate but, since the market for these rugs is mostly driven by their ‘decorative’ qualities vs. collector tastes, the pale look it carries will be, we feel, appreciated bysome prospective buyers.
Needless to say lot 61 is artistically and historically head and shoulders above lot 60 and we are sure this, and not length of pile, will carry it on auction day.
That’s about it for now concerning the sotheby sale. Stay tuned for more of our unabashed comments after the sale when we will look at the results.